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Published:   |   Last Updated: December 20, 2023

Letter 5216C,

Taxpayer Cannot Authenticate 

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Notice Overview

The IRS is unable to verify your identity to finish processing your return. 

This letter may include additional topics that have not yet been covered here. Please check back frequently for updates.

What does this mean to me?

  • The IRS received your individual income tax return but needs additional information to verify your identity.   
  • The letter gives you six months from the date you filed your individual tax return to provide additional information to verify your identity or file suit in either your U.S. District Court or the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to recover your refund plus interest.  

How did I get here?

You submitted your individual income tax return and the IRS was not able to verify your identity to complete the processing of your return.  This letter is being sent to you because more information is needed to complete the processing of your individual income tax return. This documentation to verify your identity can include: 

  • A State issued identification card  
  • Driver’s license 
  • U.S. passport or passport card 
  • U.S. military card (front and back)  
  • Permanent Resident Card  
  • Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization 

What are my next steps?


Verify the return address on the letter

The first thing to do is to check the return address on your letter to be sure it’s from the IRS and not from another agency, and not some type of a scam to obtain personal information from you.  If you suspect the letter to be a scam, report it to the IRS at Report Phishing | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov).


Respond to the letter

If the letter is authentic, read the letter carefully and call the toll-free phone number listed on the letter to determine what information the IRS needs to verify your identity and complete the processing of your return. 

Don’t send a copy of your return unless the IRS asks you to do so. Do not file a Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. After the IRS receives the requested information, they’ll use it to process your original tax return. 


You May Have a Refund

If you’re entitled to a refund, the IRS will send it about six to eight weeks from the time they receive your response, plus any applicable interest. 

If you choose, you may be represented by a third party such as an attorney, certified public accountant, or enrolled agent. Also, you may be represented by a member of your immediate family, or a student or law graduate working in a low income taxpayer clinic or student tax clinic program.  If you want your representative to advocate on your behalf and appear without you before the IRS, you must file a properly completed Form 2848 (no earlier than 01/2021 revision), Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative. You may also authorize an individual to receive or inspect confidential material but not represent you before the IRS, by filing a Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization. These forms are available at your local IRS office, by calling 1-800-829-3676, or from www.IRS.gov. 


Bring the following identity verification documents to your appointment:

A valid federal or state government-issued picture identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID, or passport.

At least ONE of the following forms of identification: 

  • Current federal or state government-issued identification that is different from the first document provided 
  • U.S. Social Security card 
  • Mortgage statement with current address 
  • Lease agreement for a house or apartment with current address  
  • Car title  
  • Voter registration card (not the voter registration application) 
  • Utility bill matching address on ID 
  • Birth certificate (the IRS no longer accepts Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010) 
  • Current school records

Once you have successfully verified your identity, the IRS will continue processing your tax return.  It may take up to 9 weeks for you to receive your refund plus any applicable interest, or apply the overpayment to next year’s estimated tax. You can visit Where’s My Refund? on irs.gov or on the IRS2Go mobile app after two – three weeks from verifying your identity. However, if there are other issues, you may receive a notice asking for more information and this may delay your refund. 

Where can I get additional help?

Understanding your notice or letter

Get Help topics

Browse common tax issues and situations at TAS Get Help

If you still need help

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.


Did you know there is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

The taxpayer Bill of Rights is grouped into 10 easy to understand categories outlining the taxpayer rights and protections embedded in the tax code.

It is also what guides the advocacy work we do for taxpayers.

Read more about your rights

Where am I in the tax system?

Letter 5216C, Taxpayer Cannot Authenticate